1. Make sure what you are looking for is actually what is available from the seller.
Do not proceed with any sale unless you see the equipment up close or in photos and can verify that the equipment is exactly what you are looking for. Check model numbers on every component and cable, firmware version, and even serial numbers. All of this information will save a huge headache later on when it comes time to hook up, install, and activate the unit with the service provider. There have been many times where a seller on eBay has listed a used Qualcomm OmniTRACS system and it was actually a used Qualcomm OmniExpress unit. There were many issues with this. These are two very different systems in the way they look, the way they gather and transmit information, and cost on a monthly basis. And if a buyer goes online and buys what they perceive is a required OmniTRACS unit and unknowingly gets the wrong equipment, there could be problems getting everything returned and money refunded. If a seller doesn’t know the difference in equipment, they probably shouldn’t be selling it. Which brings up the next point…
2. Research the seller to ensure you are dealing with a reputable source.
Sometimes it may seem that there is so much equipment available on the secondary market that a buyer could have many possibilities to get a great deal on quality used mobile communications equipment. Invest a little time in reading reviews and ensuring there are good references from the seller to whom you wish to purchase the equipment. Are they in the transportation industry and have extensive knowledge of mobile communications equipment? Do they know the process involved with the specific service providers getting the equipment transferred as well as all of the extra costs associated? Do not take for granted that the sellers are professionals in this industry. Many know just enough to get the equipment sold. So the next point is very important.
3. Understand the monetary value of the equipment, new and used.
To start, know what a new system costs from the manufacturer. New mobile communications systems can range anywhere from $500 to over $2500. In the last couple of years, a used PeopleNet OBC would cost $300-$450 just to transfer the DSN into a user’s account if purchased on the secondary market. Think about the investment needed just in transfer fees if a trucking company wanted to outfit a fleet of 50 trucks? The cost upfront coupled with the cost on the back end may end up being more than the cost of new! If a buyer didn’t know about the fees, what a particular system costs new from the manufacturer, and service contract, they could be in for a lot of surprises. Note that recently the PeopleNet OTAP transfer fees and policies have changed, and the cost to get a unit and the critical information that goes with it transferred over into another account is a $100 bill. A rule of thumb to follow, if you can save around 50-70% on a system after all fees, it should be a great value. Unless the next point gets in the way…
4. Research the terminology and understand the capabilities of the equipment.
With this point, don’t be afraid to allow the professionals to help. The trucking industry is in a state of change. The FMCSA’s new Hours of Service guidelines and mandated Electronic on-Board Recorders (EOBR) have forced the integration of new features on mobile communications systems today. This is of great benefit for the way trucking companies do business. With features like eLogs, Navigation, Text-to-Speech functionality, internet surfing capabilities, and even video playback from large files sent over the air, the power and flexibility of today’s technologies have a drastic improvement from the equipment of the past. Unfortunately, this can drop the value of even some newer systems because the functionality of these do not meet today’s newer requirements. For instance, the robust computing power and sleek slideout keyboard on a Qualcomm MCP110 unit is very attractive for a system just a couple of years old already popping up on the secondary market. But along comes new systems like the all-in-one Rand McNally TND760 that is so much less expensive with the same features that it may not make financial sense to invest in new Qualcomm MCP110′s…unless you can get them used MCP110 with a warranty from a very reputable, very knowledgeable place like Pivot Technology Resources. So, knowing what specific system fits the particular needs of a fleet is the single most important factor when making the decision to invest in mobile communications, new or used. And yet again, leading to the next point…
5. Have a stable return policy that is agreed upon in writing before the sale is executed.
Before agreeing to exchange any money, make sure you have answers to a lot of the questions you will have after the sale. What if the equipment isn’t what was promised, doesn’t work, or have problems with getting it activated? Check with the manufacturer and ensure that the serial number is a valid working number, without restrictions and can be activated. Many different types of components may look great in a photo or an advertisement with a guarantee that the products are in working condition. “Working condition” may simply mean that when everything is hooked up, everything seems to turn on. The trouble starts when the unit cannot be activated because of quite a few different reasons.
The unit could still be active in another company’s account. Sometimes when a company sells a truck they forget to remove the mobile communications system. They may not even know the equipment is gone. But just because they don’t have possession, doesn’t mean it still isn’t their property. Even though you paid someone else for it, the company that owns this may still want this equipment back when they find out it is trying to be activated…and you have it! Or, maybe the unit has been BLACKLISTED, or unable to be activated because at some point in time it was lost during shipping, has been stolen, or the company even defaulted on paying the service provider for months! When a company can’t pay the monthly account balance and the fees pile up, the service provider can shut the units down until they receive payment. Then they place the unit numbers in an account that suspends the activation process until the balance is paid. So some equipment out there may have some hefty fees still associated with them.
Sometimes the equipment was delivered to the wrong address or lost in shipping transit – There are many companies online that actually sell things that have been lost or misplaced by FedEx, UPS, DHL, or any other shipping service. When a box does not arrive at a facility and they can’t locate it, it becomes an insurance claim and the unit is now not able to be activated because the company has already been paid for the value of the insurance claim to buy a replacement. For instance, when looking at used Qualcomm MCP200 system on eBay, it may seem like a great deal when you can save a thousand dollars on brand new $2400 set of equipment that has never been installed. But the seller may not even know the equipment is considered “lost” and on the Blacklist, rendering it not worth the money invested. That can be an expensive lesson learned. Pivot Technology Resources has actually purchased equipment that was “lost in transit” from one of these wholesalers. We purchased this equipment a full year after that exact shipment was originally lost in transit on the way to our own facility! Everything was legal, but we ended up paying even more for the equipment just to have it turn out to be useless because it was claimed on a shipping insurance claim. That was a lesson learned the hard way!
We hope the information is helpful for anyone looking for insight into anything regarding investing in used mobile communications on the secondary market. For more information on products or services offered by Pivot Technology Resources please call a representative at 800-679-0177.